As part of my current job I spend a lot of time in high schools. This has led to a lot of discussion and reflection about the differences between my school experience and what I observe now. The students themselves act more or less the same. There are still the same categories of people, from the wise cracking kids in the back of the room, to the shy, acheivers up front. The swearing might be a bit more blatant and loud, but it isn’t that different than 10 years ago. The one noticeable change is the proliferation of cell phones. When I was in high school the internet was a rlatively new idea, and I don’t think any of my friends had their own cell phone. Today, a large portion of the students I see can’t go 3 minutes without texting someone. The same is true of many adults now, but it’s startling to me that so many young people stay in almost constant contact with their peers. How would they survive in a world where you could only reach your friends by phoning from your house, or knocking on their door. I wonder how they will cope in the working world, where they won’t be allowed to repeatedly text or phone people. In some ways it echoes back to my earlier post about The Machine Stops.
I also wonder what effect electronic conversation has on all of us as social beings. I heard a report claiming that electronic relationships don’t nurture people the way real life encounters do. Should we become a mostly digital society (a possibility that I’m not compeletely sold on) I’m sure there are a great many negative consequences. Since I prefer to deal in the present and past, I think the proliferation of cell phones among young people has mostly led to problems. I don’t hate technology, but I do think we need to be careful what we do with it. Take a look at this post from another blog because I think Neil Postman covers this territory in a superior manner.